Jamie Edgecombe isn’t thinking about school just yet for his 22-month-old daughter, Chloe, but Thursday’s budget announcement of full-day kindergarten in 2016 takes some stress off the future.
By the time Chloe gets to school, kindergarten will no longer be half-time, putting greater emphasis on early education and also cutting some daycare costs for parents.
“It’s a positive from an academic perspective, as well as socioeconomic,” said Edgecombe, who pays about $700 a month in daycare fees in Mount Pearl.
Parents and opposition politicians have been lobbying for full-day kindergarten for years, if not decades.
It won’t come soon enough for Erin Bradbury, a full-time working mother of two boys who will be in Grade 2 and kindergarten in September.
"The 'kindergarten shuffle' is really difficult, especially to working parents, and especially if you don't work near where you live. For me, we're zoned for Torbay, but I work in St. John's, and it will take me an hour each day to pick my son up from kindergarten, drop him off at daycare and get back to work,” Bradbury said.
"I'm lucky because my daycare only charges for the time my son is there, but most daycares don't do this. They charge full-price if a child is there each day, no matter how long. This could be $800 or so a month."
Although her youngest son will miss full-day kindergarten by just a year, Bradbury is glad the province announced it.
"Full-day kindergarten is great. Most kids I know who are in the half-day kindergarten program now spend the other half of the day in daycare anyway. It will also allow those parents who take time off from work until their child is in Grade 1 and goes to full-day school to return to the workforce a year earlier," she said.
Budget 2014 provides $35.4 million over three years to implement a universal, full-day kindergarten program, beginning in September 2016.
Education Minister Clyde Jackman told reporters 75 schools will need some kind of upgrade, 50 of them minor and others substantial. Some modular, or portable, classrooms will be used to add space.
As well, the province will spend about $13 million a year on about 145 full-time teaching jobs.
But those jobs are in different programming than the roughly 160 cut from education in budget 2013, said James Dinn, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association (NLTA).
However, for the NLTA, the budget contained a lot of good news, such as spending on school infrastructure and continuation of a cap on class size.
Dinn is glad the province backed up full-day kindergarten with teacher additons.
“That’s been our message since I have taken office,” Dinn said.
“If you are going to bring (in) a program, you need the resourcing.”
But Dinn said the NLTA had hoped to see more teachers overall and spending for children with special needs.
Members of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of School Councils are upset that much of what it asked for in pre-budget consultations did not make the handouts, said executive director Denise Pike.
The federation is pleased there is an increase in student assistant time, but is disappointed that there aren’t more teachers and more guidance counsellors being put in the system, and that there’s no funding for the school councils.
“What we are hearing from our membership is schools in the province are in a crisis situation,” Pike said.
“Status quo is not good enough in the school system.”
Among the capital projects announced are a new school in Coley’s Point, an extension to St. Peter’s Junior High in Mount Pearl and an extension to Elizabeth Park Elementary in Paradise.
Other major projects are ongoing, including a new west end St. John’s high school, new schools in Paradise, Conception Bay South, Torbay, Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s, Virginia Park and Gander.